World Press Freedom Day
THE United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991.
Unesco marks World Press Freedom Day by conferring the Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on a deserving individual, organisation or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. Created in 1997, the prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 14 news professionals. Names are submitted by regional and international non-governmental organisations working for press freedom, and by Unesco member states.
The Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on December 17, 1986. Cano’s writings had offended Colombia’s powerful drug barons.
Unesco also marks World Press Freedom Day each year by bringing together media professionals, press freedom organisations and UN agencies to assess the state of press freedom worldwide and discuss solutions for addressing challenges. Each conference is centred around a theme related to press freedom, including good governance, media coverage of terrorism, impunity and the role of media in post-conflict countries.
The World Press Freedom Day is observed annually to remind countries and people all around the world, that freedom of the press and freedom of speech and expression are fundamental human rights.
This day is often held to remember many journalists who have died or faced jail in order to bring news to the public. The 2014 winner of the prize was the Turkish instigative journalist Ahmet Sik, who was reportedly arrested in 2011 on charges of being linked to an alleged terrorist organisation.
According to the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), 35 journalists have been killed in 2014 so far. And in 2013 70 journalists were killed, while the year 2012 saw one of the highest numbers of such deaths with 141 journalists reported dead.
Australian journalist Peter Greste on Friday said his detention and that of his Al Jazeera colleagues in an Egyptian jail had become a powerful symbol of press freedom worldwide.
In a statement from his prison cell on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, Greste said he was “deeply moved and strengthened” by the outpouring of support for his case, which has sparked international condemnation.
“Our case has become emblematic of the freedom of the press worldwide,” he said.
Greste said muzzling the press was “an abuse of basic universally accepted social rights and responsibilities — the right to speak freely and openly coupled with the media’s responsibility to question”.
The watchdog Freedom House said on Thursday that world press freedom has hit its lowest level in a decade.